The idea for this book might have come from National Enquirer: hideous demonic monsters invade England, laying it waste and devouring most of the inhabitants. Embargoed by the rest of the world, the English barricade themselves underground.|
After five years on the defensive, an armored, heavily-armed train is built to attack and, if possible, find the source of the plague: the Cockatrice Belle and her crack Cockatrice Corps crew. The train sets out for Manchester, and by chance it picks up Sauna, a young girl who embodies both cause and cure.
Joan Aiken's characters are evocatively Dickensian and strange--Sauna, Dakin, Clipspeak, Bellswinger, Tom Flint. This send-up of every other alien-invasion story is a quirky, inventive fantasy.